After months in the desert and in hostile territory, this picnic at Keesler's marina is just the R&R recently returned servicemen and women say they need. Sgt. Matthew Shreve says, "I think it's great. I guess it's a way for the base and the community to say thank you to us but also we appreciate the support we got from the local communities throughout the United States and also with our coalition forces."
The jubilation celebration offered something for everyone. There was the usual cook-out fare; burgers, hot dogs and baked beans, music and costumed characters for the kids. But despite the fun and games, those still serving in harm's way are not forgotten. "We need to acknowlege that folks are over there and this is our primary job. Outside of the training mission and everything else our job is to go over and fight a war and hopefully what we did over there will eventually improve things for the Iraqi people. It may be hard to see now but I think eventually we'll see the results of what we did," says Capt. Jesse Murray.
The 81st Services Division threw the big party and the community was only too happy to help. Businesses chipped in $7,000 to pay for everything. Terri Gonzalez says, "We wanted to show our appreciation and let them know we support them. Some of them are still overseas fighting for our country but we are here celebrating the fact that they are over there protecting us and this our way of showing that by getting everybody together and the community involved."
More than one hundred of Keesler's personnel are still deployed in the Middle East.